Saturday, September 10, 2016

'Salrite Update

Coincidences seem to follow me around as I write these articles.  A few weeks ago my west coast connection Michael McNeil (Northwest Pen Works) sent me a couple pictures of pen trays to look at.  Here’s the picture he sent me:

That pencil on the far left is another example of the ‘Salrite; since I’ve got a few full sized ones like that, I almost passed on it, except there was what appeared to be a bit of decorative scrollwork around the cap unlike the plain raised rib I would expect to see.  So I bit.

There was more to the story.

Since Michael’s picture was taken at an angle from the nose end, I couldn’t see a couple other interesting things about this one.  The pencil arrived the very day part 2 of the ‘Salrite saga posted here (, and of course it changes a few things I wrote.  Here is a shot of Michael's pencil from a better angle:

Yes, it has the decorative scrollwork like the gold-filled example I posted about a couple days ago (see, but it’s rendered in the same nickel-plated trim found on the other black hard rubber examples – but with an exposed eraser, a feature I’ve never seen on a ‘Salrite:

But wait, as Billy Mays would say . . . there’s more.  That’s not the most interesting part about that cap:

In “Before Salz Was Salz Part 1" ( I indicated that Lucifer Most was awarded two patents for the pencil – the patent date usually found on  metal Sta-Sharp and ‘Salrite pencils is December 23, 1919, but an earlier patent application Most filed was not awarded until June 20, 1922.

In “Before Salz Was Salz Part 2" ( I noted that the hard rubber ‘Salrites are marked on the cap with the December 23, 1919 date, but that the barrels are also marked with “Other Patents Pending.”

“The ‘others pending’ doubtless refers to Lucifer J. Most’s 1922 patent, which was applied for in 1918 but wasn’t issued until 1922,” I said.  I was wrong: the patent date seen here is May 2, 1922, not June 20, and it wasn’t issued to Lucifer Most:

On November 27, 1920, James Salz applied for what would be issued on May 2, 1922 as patent number 1,414,752, for a “hard rubber pencil.”  The patent was assigned to Pencil Products Corporation.

That clarifies something else I wrote in Part 1, in which I noted that one of the incorporators of The Pencil Products Corporation was “J. Salz.”  At the time, I couldn’t tell whether “J.” was Ignatz’ brother James or his other brother, Jacob  – fair to say it was James, in light of this patent.

But wait . . .  There’s even more.  Note from the patent drawings that James’ patent shows an internal tube with a pushrod that engages the threaded inner walls of the barrel?  I can’t for the life of me figure out how this wasn’t a violation of Charles Keeeran’s patent for the Eversharp . . . but no worries: that isn’t what’s inside this pencil:

There’s a unique little pushrod inside, with two holes drilled into the flange at one end so that it threads onto a spring:

Once threaded in place, the flange engages into a slot inside, so that turning the top causes the plunger to advance and retract, while the lead is held in place by the tip.

Just like an Autopoint, except the rod is attached inside the barrel instead of being threaded into the tip.   Oh, wait... exactly like an early Autopoint.

I’ve started going through 1920s patents in my book (American Writing Instrument Patents Volume 2: 1911-1945) indexed under “Mechanical pencil (screw drive)" and I’m finding some promising leads, but I’m surprised I’m not seeing this unique propeller rod yet.  The most promising patent I’ve found was issued to Julius Swanberg, applied for on April 2, 1924 and issued on May 24, 1927 as number 1,629,766:

The only differences between this and the Salrite are that the top is threaded in place on the Swanberg patent and the pushrod is designed differently.  Other than that, this pencil is identical to this ‘Salrite – it even shows in Figure 5 holes drilled in the barrel for spare leads, just like the ‘Salrite.  Research continues on this one.

In the meantime, consider one last point – which comes from the first thing I noticed from this pencil when Michael sent me the picture: I was hoping that this pencil might have some more clues tying together the stories of the Pencil Products Corporation and the Chase Pencil Corporation, and it does.  Since the only example I’ve seen of a ‘Salrite with a 1922 patent date is also the only one that has this scrollwork, I believe this feature was added late in the ‘Salrite’s run.  That is consistent with my hypothesis that Salz turned over the brand to Chase, which was manufacturing these pencils all along, after clan Salz butted heads with the Federal Trade Commission and Shur-Rite.

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